Negative Effects of Mining in Palawan
Thesis Statement: The continuous mining in Palawan will cause degradation of the soil, denuding of the forests and extinction of animal and plant species thus lowering its’ biodiversity. Biological diversity, or biodiversity, encompasses the variety and abundance of plants, animals, and microorganisms as well as the ecosystems and ecological processes to which they belong. (Braatz, 1992) The word came from the Latin “bios” which means life and “diversitas” which means variety or differences which therefore means variety of life. Catibog-Sinha, C. , Heaney, L. 2006) Biodiversity plays a large role on what the society is possessing today. Its’ significance can be divided into two main aspects: the economic benefits and the services it gives to humanities. The most politically appealing and economically attractive argument in favour of maintaining biodiversity is that it provides enormous direct economic benefits in the form of food, medicines, industrial raw materials and has the potential for generating many more. Ehrlich and Wilson, 1991; McNeely, 1988 as cited in Braatz, 1992) In addition to this, there are three main factors of biodiversity loss and these are the continuous changing of land use, the ongoing expansion, emergence and integration of markets and states, and the movement of species into the areas inhabited by others. (Konteleon, A. , Pascual, U. , Swanson, T. , 2007) In an article in the Philippine Star newspaper, it was said that “The Philippines ranks fifth globally in the number of plant species, and it hosts about 5% of the world’s flora. ” (Paje, R. 2012) The Philippines has been named one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries, and it has been ranked one of the countries with the highest rates of discovery in the world. (Yap, D. , 2012) Also, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has revealed that more than 270 wildlife species endemic to the Philippines have been found in the past 25 years. In a statement given by DENR Secretary Ramon Paje (2012) “These discoveries of sorts are a testament that the Philippines is richly endowed with unique biodiversity that only underscores the need for stepped up protection.
These endemic species are our living jewels. They are irreplaceable and unique components of our awesome environmental heritage. ” (Villanueva, R. 2012) Fortunately, there is a province here in the Philippines that is so much blessed in biological diversity. This province is referred to as the “Last Ecological Frontier” of the country due to the number of endangered species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles that are found only in this province. Thus, the name Palawan enters. Palawan is the largest province in the country with an area of 1,489,655 hectares or equivalent to 5% of the country’s local territory.
It comprises of the following biodiversity: 15 lakes, 42 ponds, 44 waterfalls, 72 natural springs, 9 mineral springs, 28 principal rivers, 43 streams and 165 creeks identified as potential sources of water for domestic consumption and irrigation, 690,000 hectares of terrestrial forest, 42,500 hectares of mangrove forests- having 31 species and 90% of the known mangrove species in the country, 8 of the 11 amphibians endemic to the Philippines, 279 species of birds- 27 are endemic, 15 out of 25 marine mammals, 58 species of terrestrial mammals- 19 endemic to the country and 16 are restricted to Mantalingahan Mountain Range, 24 endemic reptiles and 69 species found in the corridor, 4 of the 5marine turtles and 379 species of corals and 82% of the total coral species recorded in the country.
Aside from having the title of the “Last Ecological Frontier”, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared it as a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” because of its’ uniqueness like having a vast land area and topography which is divided by tall mountain ranges such as Mt. Mantalingahan, Mt. Gantung in the southern part and Cleopatra’s Needle in the northern part of the province with an average elevation of approximately 1,100 meters. Palawan is also a home of three major indigenous communities namely: Batak which can be located in the central and northern part, Tagbanua in the central, northern and southern part and Pala’wan in the southern part of the province. (http://pnni. wordpress. com) Because of the natural resources endowed upon Palawan and the local and global appreciation it gathered, the Senate Bill No. 1358 was created.
This declares Palawan as the “Ecological Tourism Capital of the Philippines” and thus needs ample “government support” and “grant of autonomy” for its ecological projects. The said bill banks on the “right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology” and protects Palawan from attacks on its natural resources. (Estropia, E. J. , 2012) Palawan does not only have distinct species but it also possesses beautiful sceneries that have gathered titles and are well-known around the globe. One of these is the Tubbataha Reef which covers 33,200 hectares and a home to lots of marine life such as manta rays, sea turtles, sharks, tuna, dolphins, jackfish, coral reefs with 300 coral species and 379 species of fish.
It is also the one of the most desirable scuba-diving destination in the Philippines. Another is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River which was chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. However, the biodiversity of Palawan is under very high threat. Conservation International has identified Palawan as a site for threatened amphibians, mammals, birds, reptiles, and freshwater fish, as well as for restricted-range and congregatory birds, using confirmed locality data for each target species. (Impact Asian Magazine for Human Transformation 45(7), 2011) As of today, Palawan has been experiencing a serious problem that could lower its biodiversity and this is mining.
Mining is the extraction of minerals down the earth’s crust. In mining, land excavation will always be performed whether it is an open-cast mining or an underground mining. Both types will cause significant effects on the environment and to all living organisms around the area. It cannot be hide that the province of Palawan is not only rich in biodiversity but also rich in mineral deposits that lie under its virgin forests. This made many mining industries to capitalize in the province and extract minerals. The mineral resources that can be found in the province are nickel, copper, manganese, chromite and gold. However, nickel ranks first in terms of the province’s mineral production value.
Even though the mining industry contributes on raising the status of Philippine economy, as anticipated, it is causing disruptive activities that harm the people and the environment of Palawan specifically lowering its biodiversity level. “According to Impact, Asian Magazine for Human Transformation in their special edition on July 2011entitled “Palawan: A Clash Between Mining and Biodiversity”, mining operations have been active in Palawan since 1970. It was revealed that mining tenements are found in core protected zones in Palawan. ” (Estropia, E. J. , 2012) Also, according to statistics, there are 429 mining claims and applications currently present in Palawan which covered up a total area of 850,000 hectares. The numbers of mining firms are alarming since most of these are prominent in the north and south part of Palawan where the biodiversity level is high.
Geo-tagging data from Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) as of March 2011, has also found the province and its biodiversity under threat due to some 354 mining tenements encroached in almost 50% of its total land area, covering forest ranges of Mt. Bulanjao which is a protected area and falls under ‘core zones’ which should not be open to any development activity, and 90% of ancestral lands. (Impact Asian Magazine for Human Transformation 45(7), 2011) There are laws concerning on the preservation of Palawan’s biodiversity. One of these is the Republic Act No. 7942 otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. This act declares that all mineral resources in public and private lands within the territory and exclusive economic zone of the Republic of the Philippines are owned by the State.
It shall be the responsibility of the State to promote their rational exploration, development, utilization and conservation through the combined efforts of government and the private sector in order to enhance national growth in a way that effectively safeguards the environment and protect the rights of affected communities. It sought to arrest the slump of the mining industry by providing a framework by which investments in mineral exploitation must operate, so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past which caused many of the mines to close shop. (Ballesteros, 1997) On the other side, the law was opposed by environmentalists, social activists and indigenous people organizations.
The law is based on Article XII of the Philippine Constitution and thus mandates the State to manage the country’s mineral resources as owner and administrator, and to control and supervise exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources. The law reiterates the Constitutional provision that only the government may grant mining rights to individuals and corporations. (http://www. forestpeoples. org) In addition to this, the government has approved 180 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPPAs), 70 exploration permits, 126 industrial sand and gravel permits, and five special mineral extraction permits including two Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAAs) under previous mining laws. (Estropia, E. J. , 2012) Another is the Republic Act 7661 or Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP Law).
It is known as a comprehensive frame-work for the sustainable development of Palawan compatible with protecting and enhancing the natural resources and endangered environment of the province. It shall serve to guide the local government of Palawan and the government agencies concerned in the formulation and implementation of plans, programs affecting the environment and natural resources of Palawan. SEP has established a graded system of protection and development control over the whole of Palawan, including its tribal lands, forests, mines, agricultural areas, settlement areas, small islands, mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass beds and the surrounding sea which is known as the Environmental Critical Areas Network (ECAN) and shall serve as the main strategy of the SEP. (http://pnni. wordpress. om) Despite of the presence of these laws, companies are still being granted authorization to mine in core protected areas and mining corporations have been able to grab massive land areas for mining metal ores through this act. Mining is a very destructive activity to all forms of life. The fact that it will casts vast excavation of land which mining corporations perform not in lowland areas but in the location where dense forests exist on various mountain and mountain ranges shows how big the total damage it may cause in the environment. The main thing that is being affected by mining is the nature encompassing all the biotic and abiotic organisms that exist in the surrounding area where mining is being held. In mining, it cannot be conducted without affecting the land, water, and air surrounding the site, as well as the various natural resources found in them.
It involves the extraction of minerals and because of this then there is destruction of wildlife which may also result in health problems. Then there are the disasters that can happen from the cutting of trees, erosion, and other accidents from mining structures. Thus, it is important for mining companies to practice the concept of “Responsible Mining”. In a statement given by Godfrey Oliphant, Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources of South Africa, 2012, “Responsible mining is something that develops the economy and its people and recognizes the delicate balance between mining and the environment. Responsibility in mining gives priority to the health and safety of workers and surrounding communities. ” (Malanes, M. , Caluza, D. , Cimatu, F. 2012) In responsible mining there must be a positive effect on the Philippine economy. Whatever environmental problems that mining companies are facing must be remediated. Moreover, there must be progress seen in the surrounding community like construction of schools and hospitals. However, most mining companies do not apply these concepts that is why adverse effects in the ecosystem are being felt by the present species of animals, plants and as well as humans. First and foremost, mining affects the land that is being converted to a mining site. Since mining companies perform mining in the virgin forests of Palawan, the trees are being cut down.
Cutting down trees would cause destruction of the whole forests. Without trees, the area is prone to erosion and when heavy rain strikes, there will be flash floods which could cause death to the residents living near the mine site. Thus, there will be deforestation and loss of wildlife habitat. Given that most animal and plant species are living in the forests, devastating their habitat will cause them to leave and change the way they live. Animals will try to find new ways in order to survive in the new environment that they are encountering. However, soon enough and they will not be able to cope with the changes, they will die. Their number will decrease and soon only few will be alive.
This causes endemism. Ecologically speaking, the flora and fauna of Palawan will decline, thus contributing on decreasing its level of biodiversity. In order to recover some ores located within and beneath the layers of soil and rocks, miners use huge machineries that destroy the big rock deposits. In doing this, dust is produced within the process which contributes on air pollution. The dust greatly affects the quality of the air being inhaled by humans. The dust which was released may contain greenhouse gases like methane. Also, other toxins that were released like sulphur dioxide will combine into the air and when it precipitates, the rain will be acidic.
Another is smog. Smog when inhale can cause shortness of breath and serious coughing. Another effect of mining in land is that it causes declination in agricultural production. The main livelihood of the people in Palawan is through agricultural crops specifically rice production. However, when mining started to strike in their land, there has been a decrease in their total harvest due to the mine tailings that have scattered throughout their plantation. The laterite that came from mining waste was deposited in their field which caused the rice to grow smaller than the usual. One example of mineral which is commonly subject for mining in Palawan is nickel.
Nickel, above the natural tolerable level in soil caused reduction in yield of shoots of rye grass (Khalid and Tinsley, 1980). The species of Rice belongs to the family of grasses which is supposed to composed of sturdy plants. Nickel also reduced the growth of corn (Huillier et al. 1996) and higher concentration of Nickel in the germinating seeds of cabbage, lettuce, millet, radish, turnips and wheat cause reductions in root elongation (Carlson et al. 1991). Similarly, elevated levels of nickel in higher forms of flowering plants such as rice for instance, blocks cell division in the pericycle of roots, resulting in the inhibition of root branching (Seregin and Kozhevnikova 2005).
Likewise, the toxic effects of Cr on plant growth and development are in the germination and growth of roots, stems and leaves, hence, its yield. In addition, Cr causes harmful effects on photosynthesis, water relations and mineral nutrition by direct effects on enzymes and anti-oxidants (Shanker et al. 2005). Hence, the abovementioned effects would definitely impact on plant growth and productivity. (Regis, E. , 2011) Aside from the effects of mining in land, it also affects the bodies of water near it and the aquatic ecosystems were the marine species are living. When mining disturbs the layers of soil and rocks, the process scatters toxic heavy metals contained in these layers and become mixed with loosened soil and tailings.
Through mining, these metals become concentrated in surface soil and brought downslope by heavy rains and typhoons in tropical environments. In island ecosystem with steep slopes, these toxics reach the sea and kill marine organisms in marine habitats. (Regis, E. , 2011) Due to the laterite that flows through rivers and to the seas, it covered the natural habitat of fishes and other marine organisms and these are the coral reefs. Coral reefs serve as the breeding ground for most fishes and food for various fishery resources. After the invasive flow of laterite to the seas, the coral reefs look like a rusty piece of metal which means that it is already dead and useless.
And because the corals were already dead due to the polluted water, species of fishes as well as other marine animals living in that area will have no habitat. They will not be able to reproduce since there are no more breeding grounds. The water will not be suitable for these organisms and light will not be able to pass through and the sea grasses which are covered with laterite will not be able to propagate. Laterite will also fill the gills of the fishes which is the main cause of fill kills. Not only sees but also rivers were victims of mining. Other mine wastes flow in the rivers thus making it a dead river. Severe outcomes will be encountered by humans and other forms of life when mining in Palawan continues. However, the most adverse effect is the destruction of the environment.
Because of this, there will be a decrease in the flora and fauna of Palawan. The once known to be the most diverse province in the Philippines might lost its title due to the impact of mining on the forested areas, social community and aquatic ecosystem. If mining operations will continue, pollution whether in air, land or water will get worse. The endemic species in Palawan might soon be vanished, and the numerous species of today will be classified as extinct tomorrow. Also, the biodiversity sites like the Tubbataha Reef National Park and the Puerto Princesa Underground River which are known around the world will be destroyed. With all of this, the biodiversity level of Palawan will decline.
The people who are benefiting on the natural resources of the province will also be affected. There will be a change in the food and services they acquired. Since their primary source of livelihood is farming, pollution of the soil will produce no crops. There will also be less employment. The water that they are taking will not be potable due to chemical deposits that pollute the water. The fishes recovered by the fishermen will not be enough to supply the food of the people and if there is fill kill then sea foods will be inedible. There will be diseases due to pollution like skin diseases. If the people were able to eat any crops containing metal minerals from mine waste then they will be sick.
In addition to this, there will also be geological vulnerability. Philippines lies near the Pacific Ring of Fire, if mining will continue then there will be more and more excavation of land and conversion of mountainous areas to plains, when this happens the formation of the plates will be destructed. Any time, there will movements of plates that could cause high intensity earthquakes and could cause a tsunami since Palawan is surrounded with water. Admittedly, the Philippines is below par when it comes to international practice of water and toxic waste management at mining sites. The already disastrous legacy of mining in the Philippines will, it is feared, worsen.
The international community should take stronger action in order to regulate mining particularly, near sea level mining that might be easily inundated as sea level rises and all mining in monsoon/typhoon /hurricane affected zones. (Impact Asian Magazine for Human Transformation 45(7), 2011) The continuous mining in Palawan will cause degradation of the soil, denuding of the forests and extinction of animal and plant species thus lowering its’ biodiversity. Hence, mining should be stopped in order to avoid the possible effects above which can be experience by the whole province. Another is in order to conserve the natural species of Palawan including all the animal and plant species that are found only in the province.
The rules and regulations which are being implemented must be revised in order to inspect every mining application that tends to build a mining site in the province and the current mining tenements as well. Further land excavation must be put to an end and the mine wastes that mining companies created must be cleaned. The mountains that they cleared must be replaced with new trees. Also, the wastes on the rivers and on the seas must be removed. What else must the environment have to experience in order to stop the mining in Palawan? Would it be okay to let the numerous species of today be classified as extinct tomorrow? Is it just to take the risk of having a progressive economy than to preserve the treasures of the country? Should mining be stopped or just wait for nature to hit back?